April 2015 Meeting – Discovering the History of the Vietnamese in Orange County – Speaker: Dr. Thuy Vo Dang

The Orange County Historical Society will mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the beginnings of our local Vietnamese-American community at their upcoming meeting, April 9, 2015, 7:00 p.m. (program begins at 7:30 p.m.) at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Dr. Thuy Vo Dang, Archivist for the Southeast Asian Archive and Regional History at UCI’s Libraries, will discuss “Black April and the Vietnamese in Orange County.” This program is open to the public at no charge.

When Saigon tragically fell to the communists on April 30, 1975, it marked the end of the long and bloody Vietnam War and sparked a mass exodus by those who valued their lives and their freedom.

Although dispersed throughout the world, many came to central Orange County, where three cities—Westminster, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana— now have “Welcome to Little Saigon” signs. The people here constitute the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. They have created flourishing residential neighborhoods and bustling commercial centers and have transformed the social, cultural, economic, and political life of the region.

Prior to 1975, there were a small number of Vietnamese in the United States, many of whom were international students, war brides or military personnel. But Vietnamese Americans today arrived as refugees and immigrants since the end of the war. Although they were lumped together as “refugees,” they were and are diverse in terms of their class, ethnic, regional, religious, linguistic, and ideological backgrounds. Their migration paths varied, and they often struggled with resettling in a new homeland and rebuilding their lives.

Thuy Vo Dang has a doctorate in ethnic studies from the U.C. San Diego. Before her appointment as archivist, Vo Dang served as the Project Director for the Vietnamese American Oral History Project at UCI. It was during this period that OC Weeklydubbed her “The Studs Terkel of Little Saigon.”

Her book, Vietnamese in Orange County, with co-authors Linda Trinh Vo and Tram Le, was published this year by Arcadia Publishing. Images in this book came from UCI’s archival collections and the authors’ personal collections, as well as from journalists, artists, students, and community leaders.